USA, 2007, 106 minutes
Sat, Apr 26 / 1:15 / Kabuki / WALT26K
Mon, Apr 28 / 6:00 / Kabuki / WALT28K
Wed, Apr 30 / 12:30 / Kabuki / WALT30K
Drawing on the director’s intimate familiarity with the Disney studios and enviable access to archival materials, this film penetrates deep into studio lore in documenting a fascinating and little known chapter of film history: a 1941 research trip-cum–goodwill tour of South America by Walt Disney and a hand-picked group of his artists, nicknamed El Grupo. Out of this trip came a series of Latin American–themed Disney films, including Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros and other pictures that supported the U.S. Good Neighbor program. Now the award-winning husband-and-wife filmmaking team of Ted Thomas and Kuniko Okubo chronicle the trip itself. Walt & El Grupo benefits from a singular family connection: Ted Thomas is the son of legendary Disney animator Frank Thomas—one of the members of that original tour. He unearths such artifacts as priceless 16mm color footage of the tour, hidden in the Disney vaults for more than 60 years. But Thomas and Okubo don’t stop there. With their camera crew, they retrace El Grupo’s steps throughout South America, juxtaposing 1941 views with the same locations as they appear today. Images come supplemented by the words of the artists, recorded in letters and journals and read aloud by present-day family members; and by South American eyewitnesses and their descendants who describe, sometimes touchingly, the impact of the Disney encounter on their lives. Produced with wit, compassion and a keen eye for historical resonance, Walt & El Grupo reveals one of our preeminent film artists and his collaborators participating in a significant moment in history.
Presented in association with The Walt Disney Family Museum. World Premiere. Sponsored byKQED and the Embarcadero Center.